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Isaiah 53:3

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Acquainted with grief - For וידוע vidua, familiar with grief, eight MSS. and one edition have וירע veyada, and knowing grief; the Septuagint, Syriac, and Vulgate read it ויודע veyodea .

We hid as it were our faces from him "As one that hideth his face from us" - For וכמסתר uchemaster, four MSS. (two ancient) have וכמסתיר uchemastir, one MS. ומסתיר umastir . For פנים panim, two MSS. have פניו panaiu ; so likewise the Septuagint and Vulgate. Mourners covered up the lower part of their faces, and their heads, 2 Samuel 15:30; Ezekiel 29:17; and lepers were commanded by the law, Leviticus 13:45, to cover their upper lip. From which circumstance it seems that the Vulgate, Aquila, Symmachus, and the Jewish commentators have taken the word נגוע nagua, stricken, in the next verse, as meaning stricken with the leprosy: εν αφῃ οντα, Sym.; αφημενον, Aq.; leprosum, Vulg. So my old MS. Bible. I will insert the whole passage as curious: -

There is not schap to him, ne fairnesse,

And we seegen him, and he was not of sigte,

And we desiriden him dispisid; and the last of men:

Man of souaris and witing infirmitie;

And he hid his cheer and despisid;

Wherfor ne we settiden bi him:

Verili our seeknesse he toke and our sorewis he bair,

And we helden him as leprous and smyten of God, and meekid;

He forsoth wounded is for our wickednesse,

Defoulid is for our hidous giltis

The discipline of our pese upon him,

And with his wanne wound we ben helid.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

He is despised - This requires no explanation; and it needs no comment to show that it was fulfilled. The Redeemer was eminently the object of contempt and scorn alike by the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Romans. In his life on earth it was so; in his death it was still so; and since then, his name and person have been extensively the object of contempt. Nothing is a more striking fulfillment of this than the conduct of the Jews at the present day. The very name of Jesus of Nazareth excites contempt; and they join with their fathers who rejected him in heaping on him every term indicative of scorn.

Rejected of men - This phrase is full of meaning, and in three words states the whole history of man in regard to his treatment of the Redeemer. The name ‹The Rejected of Men,‘ will express all the melancholy history; rejected by the Jews; by the rich; the great and the learned; by the mass of people of every grade, and age, and rank. No prophecy was ever more strikingly fulfilled; none could condense more significancy into few words. In regard to the exact sense of the phrase, interpreters have varied. Jerome renders it, Novissium virorum - ‹The last of men;‘ that is, the most abject and contemptible of mankind. The Septuagint, ‹His appearance is dishonored ( ἄτιμον atimon ) and defective ( ἐκλειπον ekleipon ) more than the sons of men.‘ The Chaldee, ‹He is indeed despised, but he shall take away the glory of all kings; they are infirm and sad, as if exposed to all calamities and sorrows.‘ Some render it, ‹Most abject of men,‘ and they refer to Job 19:14, where the same word is used to denote those friends who forsake the unfortunate.

The word חדל châdêl used here, is derived from the verb חדל châdal which means “to cease, to leave off, to desist”; derived, says Gesenius (Lexicon), from the idea of becoming languid, flaccid; and thence transferred to the act of ceasing from labor. It means usually, to cease, to desist from, to leave, to let alone (see 1 Kings 22:6-15; Job 7:15; Job 10:20; Isaiah 2:22). According to Gesenius, the word here means to be left, to be destitute, or forsaken; and the idea is, that be was forsaken by people. According to Hengstenberg (Christol.) it means ‹the most abject of men,‘ he who ceases from men, who ceases to belong to the number of men; that is, who is the most abject of men. Castellio renders it, Minus quash homo - ‹Less than a man.‘ Junius and Tremellius, Abjectissimus virorum - ‹The most abject of men.‘ Grotius, ‹Rejected of men.‘ Symmachus, Ἐλάχιστος ἀνδρῶν Elachistos andrōn - ‹the least of men.‘ The idea is, undoubtedly, somehow that of ceasing from human beings, or from being regarded as belonging to mankind.

There was a ceasing, or a withdrawing of that which usually pertains to man, and which belongs to him. And the thought probably is, that he was not only ‹despised,‘ but that there was an advance on that - there was a ceasing to treat him as if he had human feelings, and was in any way entitled to human fellowship and sympathy. It does not refer, therefore, so much to the active means employed to reject him, as to the fact that he was regarded as cut off from man; and the idea is not essentially different from this, that he was the most abject and vile of mortals in the estimation of others; so vile as not to be deemed worthy of the treatment due to the lowest of men. This idea has been substantially expressed in the Syriac translation.

A man of sorrows - What a beautiful expression! A man who was so sad and sorrowful; whose life was so full of sufferings, that it might be said that that was the characteristic of the man. A similar phraseology occurs in Proverbs 29:1, ‹He that being often reproved,‘ in the margin, ‹a man of reproofs;‘ in the Hebrew, ‹A man of chastisements,‘ that is, a man who is often chastised. Compare Daniel 10:11: ‹O Daniel, a man greatly beloved,‘ Margin, as in Hebrew, ‹A man of desires; that is, a man greatly desired. Here, the expression means that his life was characterized by sorrows. How remarkably this was fulfilled in the life of the Redeemer, it is not necessary to attempt to show.

And acquainted with grief - Hebrew, חלי וידוע viydûa‛ choliy - ‹And knowing grief.‘ The word rendered ‹grief‘ means usually sickness, disease Deuteronomy 7:15; Deuteronomy 28:61; Isaiah 1:5; but it also means anxiety, affliction Ecclesiastes 5:16; and then any evil or calamity Ecclesiastes 6:2. Many of the old interpreters explain it as meaning, that he was known or distinguished by disease; that is, affected by it in a remarkable manner. So Symm. Γνωστός νόσῳ Gnōstos nosō Jerome (the Vulgate) renders it, Scientem infirmitatem. The Septuagint renders the whole clause, ‹A man in affliction ( ἐν πληγῇ en plēgē ), and knowing to bear languor, or disease‘ ( εἰδὼ; φέρειν μαλακίαν eidōs pherein malakian ). But if the word here means disease, it is only a figurative designation of severe sufferings both of body and of soul. Hengstenberg, Koppe, and Ammon, suppose that the figure is taken from the leprosy, which was not only one of the most severe of all diseases, but was in a special manner regarded as a divine judgment. They suppose that many of the expressions which follow may be explained with reference to this (compare Hebrews 4:15). The idea is, that he was familiar with sorrow and calamity. It does not mean, as it seems to me, that he was to be himself sick and diseased; but that he was to be subject to various kinds of calamity, and that it was to be a characteristic of his life that he was familiar with it. He was intimate with it. He knew it personally; he knew it in others. He lived in the midst of scenes of sorrow, and be became intimately acquainted with its various forms, and with its evils. There is no evidence that the Redeemer was himself sick at any time - which is remarkable - but there is evidence in abundance that he was familiar with all kinds of sorrow, and that his own life was a life of grief.

And we hid as it were our faces from him - There is here great variety of interpretation and of translation. The margin reads, ‹As an hiding of faces from him,‘ or ‹from us,‘ or, ‹He hid as it were his face from us.‘ The Hebrew is literally, ‹And as the hiding of faces from him, or from it;‘ and Hengstenberg explains it as meaning, ‹He was as an hiding of the face before it.‘ that is, as a thing or person before whom a man covers his face, because he cannot bear the disgusting sight. Jerome (the Vulgate) renders it, ‹His face was as it were hidden and despised.‘ The Septuagint, ‹For his countenance was turned away‘ ( ἀπέστρυπταὶ apestraptai ). The Chaldee, ‹And when he took away his countenance of majesty from us, we were despised and reputed as nothing.‘ Interpreters have explained it in various ways.

1. ‹He was as one who hides his face before us;‘ alluding, as they suppose, to the Mosaic law, which required lepers to cover their faces Leviticus 13:45, or to the custom of covering the face in mourning, or for shame.

2. Others explain it as meaning, ‹as one before whom is the covering of the face, that is, before whom a man covers the face from shame or disgust. So Gesenius.

3. Others, ‹He was as one causing to conceal the face,‘ that is, he induced others to cover the face before him. His sufferings were so terrible as to induce them to turn away. So John H. Michaelis.

The idea seems to be, that he was as one from whom people hide their faces, or turn away. This might either arise from a sight of his sufferings, as being so offensive that they would turn away in pain - as in the case of a leper; or it might be, that he was so much an object of contempt, and so unlike what they expected, that they would hide their faces and turn away in scorn. This latter I suppose to be the meaning; and that the idea is, that he was so unlike what they had expected, that they hid their faces in affected or real contempt.

And we esteemed him not - That is, we esteemed him as nothing; we set no value on him. In order to give greater energy to a declaration, the Hebrews frequently express a thing positively and then negatively. The prophet had said that they held him in positive contempt; he here says that they did not regard him as worthy of their notice. He here speaks in the name of his nation - as one of the Jewish people. ‹We, the Jews, the nation to whom he was sent, did not esteem him as the Messiah, or as worthy of our affection or regard.‘

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
No where in all the Old Testament is it so plainly and fully prophesied, that Christ ought to suffer, and then to enter into his glory, as in this chapter. But to this day few discern, or will acknowledge, that Divine power which goes with the word. The authentic and most important report of salvation for sinners, through the Son of God, is disregarded. The low condition he submitted to, and his appearance in the world, were not agreeable to the ideas the Jews had formed of the Messiah. It was expected that he should come in pomp; instead of that, he grew up as a plant, silently, and insensibly. He had nothing of the glory which one might have thought to meet with him. His whole life was not only humble as to outward condition, but also sorrowful. Being made sin for us, he underwent the sentence sin had exposed us to. Carnal hearts see nothing in the Lord Jesus to desire an interest in him. Alas! by how many is he still despised in his people, and rejected as to his doctrine and authority!
Ellen G. White
Counsels on Stewardship, 54

The plan of salvation was laid in a sacrifice so broad and deep and high that it is immeasurable. Christ did not send His angels to this fallen world, while He remained in heaven; but He Himself went without the camp, bearing the reproach. He became a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; Himself took our infirmities, and bore our weaknesses. And the absence of self-denial in His professed followers, God regards as a denial of the Christian name. Those who profess to be one with Christ, and indulge their selfish desires for rich and expensive clothing, furniture, and food, are Christians only in name. To be a Christian is to be Christlike. CS 54.1

And yet how true are the words of the apostle: “For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's.” Many Christians do not have works corresponding to the name they bear. They act as if they had never heard of the plan of redemption wrought out at infinite cost. The majority aim to make a name for themselves in the world; they adopt its forms and ceremonies, and live for the indulgence of self. They follow out their own purposes as eagerly as do the world, and thus they cut off their power to help in establishing the kingdom of God.... CS 54.2

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Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 439

Any habit or practice that would lead into sin, and bring dishonor upon Christ, would better be put away, whatever the sacrifice. That which dishonors God cannot benefit the soul. The blessing of heaven cannot attend any man in violating the eternal principles of right. And one sin cherished is sufficient to work the degradation of the character, and to mislead others. If the foot or the hand would be cut off, or even the eye would be plucked out, to save the body from death, how much more earnest should we be to put away sin, that brings death to the soul! DA 439.1

In the ritual service, salt was added to every sacrifice. This, like the offering of incense, signified that only the righteousness of Christ could make the service acceptable to God. Referring to this practice, Jesus said, “Every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.” “Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.” All who would present themselves “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God” (Romans 12:1), must receive the saving salt, the righteousness of our Saviour. Then they become “the salt of the earth,” restraining evil among men, as salt preserves from corruption. Matthew 5:13. But if the salt has lost its savor; if there is only a profession of godliness, without the love of Christ, there is no power for good. The life can exert no saving influence upon the world. Your energy and efficiency in the upbuilding of My kingdom, Jesus says, depend upon your receiving of My Spirit. You must be partakers of My grace, in order to be a savor of life unto life. Then there will be no rivalry, no self-seeking, no desire for the highest place. You will have that love which seeks not her own, but another's wealth. DA 439.2

Let the repenting sinner fix his eyes upon “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29); and by beholding, he becomes changed. His fear is turned to joy, his doubts to hope. Gratitude springs up. The stony heart is broken. A tide of love sweeps into the soul. Christ is in him a well of water springing up unto everlasting life. When we see Jesus, a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief, working to save the lost, slighted, scorned, derided, driven from city to city till His mission was accomplished; when we behold Him in Gethsemane, sweating great drops of blood, and on the cross dying in agony,—when we see this, self will no longer clamor to be recognized. Looking unto Jesus, we shall be ashamed of our coldness, our lethargy, our self-seeking. We shall be willing to be anything or nothing, so that we may do heart service for the Master. We shall rejoice to bear the cross after Jesus, to endure trial, shame, or persecution for His dear sake. DA 439.3

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Ellen G. White
Gospel Workers 1915, 49

The messengers of Christ, those whom He sends in His stead, will have the same feelings, the same earnest interest. And those who are tempted to think that their labor is not appreciated, and are inclined to be discouraged, should remember that Jesus had just as hard hearts to deal with, and had a more trying experience than they have had or ever can have. He taught the people with patient love. His deep, searching wisdom knew the wants of every soul among His listeners; and when He saw them refuse the message of peace and love that He came to give them, His heart felt anguish to the very depths. GW 49.1

*****

The world's Redeemer did not come with outward display, or a show of worldly wisdom. Men could not see, beneath the guise of humanity, the glory of the Son of God. He was “despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” He was to them as “a root out of a dry ground,” with “no form nor comeliness,” [Isaiah 53:3, 2.] that they should desire Him. But He declared, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; because the Lord hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent Me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” [Isaiah 61:1.] GW 49.2

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